The mixtape used to be the best place to hear good street-level hip-hop. Radio only plays about 30 artists, and the clubs can be a hassle with all the bad attitude and strutting. But since the RIAA raided Atlanta mixtape DJs Don Cannon and DJ Drama two years ago for copyright infringement, a pall has settled over the practice. RIAA lawyers have chased the mixtape out of many record stores and off many websites. As a result, many practitioners have left the game or changed tactics. Enter DJ G-Spot.
G-Spot is a DJ in the classic sense, having cut his teeth on the turntables rocking parties in Chicago. He still plays shows several weekends a month. At the height of the mixtape's popularity, he made two or three a month. But after eight years, he's taken a different tack with his new compilation, Midwest Invasion. It features a variety of regional artists, including Northeast Ohio rappers KingDOM, Team Tuck, Drastic, Proph the Problem and Phoenix Jones.
"It has real production and no real worries about the RIAA looking for me — that's why it's been so hard to put together," says G-Spot, who spent a year gathering 11 rappers and eight producers for the 12 tracks. "This was a way to actually push something that the RIAA cannot touch."
But it's not completely free of legal issues. The highlight track is Jones' "Family Guy," produced by Camp Crystal Lake. It features a hook culled from the animated TV sitcom's theme song. The quirky, bravado-steeped track features Jones claiming, "I got a Napoleon complex/I got a big head/You might not feel that, homie/But your bitch get it."
"I've been sending it to the Family Guy people hoping they sue me, so it can go nationwide" says G-Spot. "I don't have any money, but I'll take the publicity."
The comp boasts a wide cross-section — from the hard-charging "Midwest Got Next," featuring Milwaukee's Streetz N Young Deuces working a gnarly guitar riff, to Drastic's R&B-flavored con-rap and Team Tuck's low-rolling paean to getting blitzed and blunted, "I'm Twisted." The diversity is intentional. "I try to keep my ears open to what people like," says G-Spot. "I like what I like, but I separate what I like sometimes, just for the general good of music and for the audience."
That's something he learned in the club scene. G-Spot got his start spinning house music at parties in Chicago in the '80s. He was only 14 years old, but his mom signed off, dropping him up and picking him up as late as 3 a.m, as long as he kept his grades up. He remembers spinning with Bad Boy Bill.
"I was just a kid," he says. "He's like, 'Man, what's up with you?' I was getting paid no money, doing it for the girls. It taught me a lot about work ethic. You can't get nothing for free."
Over the years, he's continued to spin, branching out in the '90s beyond dance, playing hip-hop as it became more popular in the clubs. He'd been listening to it for years, but there was little call for it in the clubs.
G-Spot moved to Cleveland 10 years ago, following a friend who got a radio job here. He left a good job at United Health Care and ended up taking one at National City, where he was an ATM operating supervisor. Incredibly, a staff of five people hand-entered ATM transactions for the entire city. "It was the craziest shit ever," he says. "I quit after a month." He's been grinding it out making mixes and spinning ever since.
He caught a break early on. At his first Cleveland DJ gig, at the old Spy Bar, he was spotted by a member of a local radio promotion staff. They offered him a job, which got his foot in the door at radio. These days he provides mixes for stations as far-flung as Oklahoma, as well as for cable's Music Choice channels.
"You can't just be a DJ anymore," says G-Spot, who produced the comp's opening track by Bump J. "You have to manage somebody, jump on the mike, do production. You have to have those second and third hustles these days."